Parents Guide


Bicycle Safety

You can email us, write to us (PEDAL, PO Box 236, Walpole, NH 03608), fax (603 756 3754), or call (603 756 3750)


The Parent’s Role
Safety Steps to Take to Help Insure A Successful Adventure
How Bicycling Benefits the Person, the Pocketbook and the Planet
Pedaling Empowers Daily Active Life-styles (P.E.D.A.L.)



This guide is written to:

  1. help parents help their children enjoy safe bicycling. It will outline a number of steps parents can take to insure that their children ride their bike safely and also to insure that their bicycling does not cause unsafe conditions for others.
  2. discusses how bicycling benefits the person, the pocketbook and the planet.
  3. discuss the P.E.D.A.L. program of which Fun-filled Adventure in Bicycle Safety is one part.
  4. list a set of resources to which parents may go for further information. They should be reviewed to round out this booklet.

The Fun-filled Adventure in Bicycle Safety will teach your child the basics of bicycle safety. It will discuss:

  1. the components of a bicycle needed to make a bicyclist safe,
  2. the rules of the road when bicycling with other vehicles on the road,
  3. the dangerous situations in which the bicyclist may find himself or herself and how to properly react to them,
  4. how to anticipate potentially dangerous situations in order to prevent them from occurring,
  5. what the body needs in order to bicycle safely and comfortably.

The Parent’s Role

As with any external learning experience of the young child, the learning experience must be reinforced at home in order to be effective. Towards that end, here are some simple pieces of common sense advice:

  1. Try to correctly model for your young bicyclist. As you know, he or she will watch what you do as much, if not more than, as listen to what you say.
  2. The rules of the road for the automobile are for the most part the same rules for the road bicyclist. However, never assume any driver of any vehicle will always follow those rules when sharing the road with a bicyclist. Always anticipate the worse and always drive defensively.
  3. Always ride with your young bicyclist before you allow him or her to ride alone. Get to know his or her strengths and weaknesses: praise their strengths, address their weaknesses.
  4. When bicycling with your child always remain behind them, not in front. However, do not allow your young bicyclist get beyond a point where he or she can not hear you.
  5. Though every parent’s tolerance for this differs, allow your child to be challenged by bicycling. Improvement happens by surpassing previous limits. A stronger and more confident (not cocky) bicyclist will be a safer bicyclist.
  6. With every bicycle ride there are many unique opportunities for instruction. Be alert to them and alert your child to them. (It is impossible to simulate every possible contingency in any bicycle safety course.)
  7. Continually point out to them those sights, sounds and fragrances of the countryside they have missed in the past or would have missed in the future had they been driving in a motorized vehicle. Of course, at the same time remind them that remaining alert on the road is their most important priority.
  8. Our northern New England topography does not allow for many miles of level terrain. Going down hill, though easier than going up hill, is less safe due to the greater speeds attainable. Neither let your child get too far in front of you nor, due to your greater weight, allow yourself to pass your child.
  9. When going uphill do not allow your child to start weaving when there is any chance of vehicular traffic; if he or she can not maintain a straight path have them have them stop and wait to begin again (they will feel stronger in a minute or so) or have them walk their bicycle up the hill.
  10. If you and your child want to enjoy all the benefits of bicycling and do so in a safe way, your child and you must bicycle as often as possible. The best way to do this, is to work bicycling into a means of transport to places you need to go on a daily basis.
  11. We are assuming here that the Parent is an experienced bicyclist and knows the best bicycling practices. If you don’t bicycle, find an experienced adult bicyclist. If you don’t know the best bicycling practices, consult the citations at the end of this booklet.

Safety Steps to Take to Help Insure A Successful Adventure

  1. Make sure the bicycle you purchase for your child:
    1. Is fitted for him and her.
    2. Has all the safety features e.g., reflectors for the seat, handlebar and wheels. A bright flag is also recommended. (See your bicycle shop about this option.)
    3. Is as light as the budget allows.
    4. Can be adjusted for the growth of your child.
    5. Has tires the diameter of which are the thinnest possible for the terrain that he or she will bicycle.
    6. Has toe clips. However, these require a judgment call on the part of the parent. They allow for greater energy to be focused on the pedal, reducing fatigue, at the same time they may inhibit movement in emergency situations.
  2. If in any doubt about his or her physical condition, have your child checked out by a doctor.
  3. Buy your child a CPSC-certified helmet and never allow your child to ride his or her bicycle without one. (A parent should always have one, too, when bicycling.)
  4. Always check out the condition of the bicycle before allowing your child to bicycle. This insures not only a safe ride, but a comfortable one.
    1. Brakes. Pads are not worn to beyond 1/8th inch of wheel rim on both sides. Cables are of proper tension
    2. Tires. Air pressure is nominal. A full tread, no bare spots.
    3. Chain. Is properly lubricated, not rusted and is not stretched.
    4. Wheels. Are trued. While wheel is spinning it should not intermittently rub up against break pads. Do not loosen brakes to prevent this; true the wheel.
    5. Frame. Check for fractures.
    6. Gear operation. All gears can be engaged smoothly while riding.
  5. Know the factory specifications of your child’s bicycle.
  6. Always know the route your child plans to take, when he or she bicycles alone. It is best to have bicycled with him or her on that route beforehand. When they bicycle alone, arrange to have him or her call when they reach their destination or alert an adult at the end of their trip to call you.
  7. Have them dress properly for the weather. It is always feels colder going downhill and always feels warmer going uphill than the ambient air temperature. Thin but warm gloves may be needed when bicycling, even though they may not be for the ambient air temperature.
  8. It is not recommended to have your child bicycle in the rain or on sandy roads until the age of 12. (This is a general rule, but can be adjusted up or a down by the parent.) If a child does bicycle in such conditions, it is imperative they bicycle more slowly.
  9. Twilight or night bicycling is not recommended until the age of 14. (This is a general rule, but can be adjusted up or down by the parent.) If a child bicycles at night, his or her bicycle should be outfitted properly for night driving.
  10. A water bottle should be considered for hilly terrain or longer rides.
  11. If your child is out of shape or overweight let them go a distance till they begin to feel tired and have them stop. Increase the distance daily by one fifth of the distance they accomplished previously.
  12. If your child complains of pain in joints or muscles beyond those expected from physical exertion, look to his or her bicycle and make adjustments to the seat and handlebar. Or take your child and his or her bicycle back to the shop from which you purchased it and have them refit the bicycle.
  13. Bicycling, when undertaken seriously and knowledgeably, helps make for better automobile drivers in the future.

How Bicycling Benefits the Person, the Pocketbook and the Planet

The Person

Bicycling strengthens the circulatory system, burns calories, strengthens a large set of different muscles, and increases mental alertness. With respect to young people, it burns off excess energy that might otherwise find less constructive outlets. Unlike some other modes of exercise, it allows each bicyclist through his or her bicycling contribute to their local community.

The Pocketbook

Here is a list of types of costs bicycling recoups for the bicyclist when he or she bicycles instead of drives:

  1. Gasoline.
  2. Wear and tear on the automobile. (Since we live in an area where public transportation is underdeveloped, bicycling is a necessary alternative to driving.)
  3. Automobile pollution prevention, reduction or mitigation costs. (Because of the way our economic system is established, these costs are often hidden, but we pay them nonetheless.)
  4. Medical costs for a body that is unfit and/or overweight. (A body that is overweight but fit may be healthier than a body that is normal weight, but unfit.)
  5. Going-to-the-Gym or health-based summer camps costs.

The Planet

Every time your child bicycles a mile instead of being driven one, he or she saves a multitude of resources and reduces a multitude of wastes. It is also argued by many, that lives are saved as well. The actual figures can be found at links in the Resources section of this booklet.

Pedaling Empowers Daily Active Life-styles (P.E.D.A.L.)


A bicycle-based program to help children stay healthy, to reduce air and water pollution, and to increase local prosperity.

A Brief Description of How the P.E.D.A.L. Project Works

There are two types of “miles” for which an accounting category is posted within the program. In other words, each mile bicycled is accounted for in two ways.

Community Miles:

For every mile a child bikes instead of taking the car, the child earns $0.55 as scrip, which is redeemable at locally-owned participating businesses. This is the approximate cost to society of driving a child one mile instead of that child bicycling.

Family Miles:

For every mile a child bikes instead of taking the car, the parent or guardian contributes $0.45 cash. This is the approximate cost to a family of driving a child one mile instead of that child bicycling.

The money collected here goes to:

  1. help pay for operational costs of the program;
  2. help pay for special projects and events to encourage bicycling by children;

Parents/guardians keep track of miles bicycled and sign off on them. These (family and community miles) will be a tracked at P.E.D.A.L. Central, the administration and operations office.


  1. Fill out a form after each designated four-week period is completed.
  2. Indicate and sign off on this form the number of miles bicycled by the child.
  3. Mail a check for their Family Miles accumulation.

The Community Miles are sent back to the parent or guardian as scrip, which is redeemable at local participating businesses.

For additional information go to PEDAL’s website (



  1. Go Fly a Bike! : The Ultimate Book about Bicycle Fun, Freedom & Science by Bill Haduch and illustrated by Chris Murphy (New York : Dutton Children’s Books, 2004)
  2. Sloane’s Complete Book of Bicycling by Eugene A. Sloane (New York : Simon & Schuster, 1995)
  3. Ultimate Bicycle Book by Richard Ballantine and Richard Grant; commissioned photography by Philip Gatward (New York : DK Pub., 1998)
  4. Roadside Bicycle Repairs: The Simple Guide to Fixing Your Road or Mountain Bike by Rob van der Plas (San Francisco : Bicycle Books, 1995)
  5. Bicycle Safety by Nancy Loewen and illustrated by Penny Dann ([Plymouth, MN] : Child’s World, 1997)

Websites (These websites were active as of the date of publication)

  1. Bicycle Advocacy Groups: A list of bicycle advocacy organizations world wide
  2. International Bicycle Fund: Promoting sustainable transport and economic development and cross-cultural understanding worldwide
  3. Bikes Belong: Whether you’re in the bicycle industry, an advocate, or interested in bicycling, Bikes Belong has valuable news and information.
  4. It is a website for activists and campaigners and others in the grassroots global carfree movement.
  5. Physical Activity & Health: A Report of the Surgeon General This report brings together, for the first time, what has been learned about physical activity and health from decades of research.
  6. Bicycling Life: We intend this site to focus on the Good News about Bicycling as a means of transportation and recreation in everyday life.
  7. Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute: We are a small, active, non-profit consumer-funded program acting as a clearinghouse and a technical resource for bicycle helmet information
  8. NHDOT’s Official Bicycle/Pedestrian Information: Our website is devoted to New Hampshire’s cyclists and pedestrians! Visit us for bike/ped news and info, maps, tours and links to other popular bicycle and pedestrian Internet websites.